Saturday, 31 March 2012

Talking horses

I posted a new e-book on Smashwords tonight.

Yule quest

A descendant of a medieval paladin gets approached in an alley by a talking horse. It’s Christmas time and he’s drunk, so he doesn’t take it seriously. But he ends up being dragged across Ireland on a magical quest to find a sword; a sword that is needed by a fairy princess.

It originally started as another photo prompt. I will tell you how I got there because I know you are going to ask - the cliffs of Moher (as pictured on the cover) made me think of Arthur and the grail. I was thinking of the wonderful Susan Cooper series, 'The Dark is Rising'. Then I thought that Arthur had been done and I should do something else. I searched for a different artefact. I remebered the horn from Roland. I look up Roland - not only did he have a horn, and a sword, but he also had a magic talking horse, who could change size to accommodate up to four riders.  I ask you – I could not make this stuff up! The horse was a gift from the necromancer Maugris – look him up – whoa jackpot!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Visual prompts

When I first started writing, it was from a visual prompt on a Vin Diesel fansite. I know, right? They were the first people to support me and encourage me, and I will always thank them for that. They had a fiction section that suggested images for prompts. It fascinated me how the same image would become a completely different story for someone else.

Over the years I have kept a copy of some of those images that inspire me, but I just haven't got around to writing for, yet. One is this:

It is the most popular image in my photobucket account by a long shot. And I have all my banners from my twilight stories in there and some of those are pretty raunchy... lol

I know fallen angels are the ‘it’ thing in fiction right now, but it intrigues me.
I have searched to find where it comes from and who painted it. I think it is a game card from the ‘Magic; the gathering’ It’s a collectible trading card game. 

But I cannot find any information on who actually painted the image. Different artists do images for the game, but there isn’t much info about who does which images. 

I am fascinated by the dark chains he holds that bite into his flesh. I wonder if his hair is grey from age or experience? Who is he? What has he done? What power does he wield? The image makes me think of fallen angels and William Peter Blatty’s wonderful sequel to the Exorcist called ‘Legion’.

This is an excerpt from the wikipedia entry for the novel. Spoiler alert... 

It was made into a movie, The Exorcist III, in 1990, directed by Blatty himself and starring George C. Scott as Lieutenant Kinderman. The final chapter of the novel, an epilogue, has Kinderman at a burger-bar with his faithful partner, Atkins. Kinderman explains to Atkins his thoughts and musings of the whole case and how it relates to his problem of the concept of evil. Kinderman ends by concluding that he believes the Big Bang was Lucifer falling from heaven, and that the entire Universe, including humanity, are the broken parts of Lucifer, and that evolution is the process of Lucifer putting himself together back into an angel.

What a concept!

One day I will write the story that goes with it. It’s in there, I know it; just under the surface somewhere.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Short stories and one shots

“Brevity is the soul of wit,” said Shakespeare.

Or as Marcus T. Cicero (106-43 BC) put it - much requoted by other writers.  “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

I like writing one shots and smaller fics. I often panic that my word count is too low. I know! *rolls eyes at self*. I will reread something and be astonished that it is less than two thousand words and yet, feels so intense. I will receive a chapter update from another writer and it will be 15k words long and nothing really happens. That’s a massive number of words for me. I have come to realise that my brevity might be a good thing. The problem is, of course, that there is a small market for short stories. Most of my current Smashwords e-books would be considered short stories.

But I do love writing them. And I especially love photo prompts. They get my muse going. So I was very excited by the truly anonymous twilight one shot contest. I also liked the anonymity of it. They were very clear that all writers, reviewers and promotions had to be anonymous. I didn’t even tell anyone I had entered, just to be on the safe side.

I chatted with my beta ruadh sidhe about the prompts and when she saw the photo prompts she laughed that they had given me too much time to send in an entry. ‘You will write forty five stories for all the prompts’, she suggested. Yeah, right. I only wrote thirteen. What would she know…? lol. And oddly, they weren’t the sexier prompts that people might have expected me to use.

I loaded them all on JBNP and got accused of spamming the site by one friend, in jest. I have put them here with the caveat that the images belong to whoever they belong to; I am not claiming them as mine. But the stories? Those are mine.

The problem is, now everyone wants me to extend them all. Lmao

Reverence A grieving boy learns the truth of his mother’s death.

Wakeup and smell the coffee Paul Lahote wakes up after another bad night with the wrong woman in his bed.

Cleanse my Soul Sam Uley/Bella. They have circled each other for months, since he found her in the forest. Now something makes Sam go to her.

Wishful thinking  Kim/Jared. What did Kim think when Jared imprinted on her?

Bought andPaid for Leah/Alcide (from Sookie Stackhouse/true blood world) Leah takes a job as an escort. An out-of-towner books her for a wedding weekend.

Shattered Bella is transformed after the birth into a vampire; a real, feral newborn. Jake’s pov.

Hope springseternal Bella chooses herself and a new, human life after Edward leaves her in the forest.

Jake’sPiece  Bella Cullen on her way to her Sth American honeymoon, has a plane delay. She wonders what happens to the piece of her heart that she felt break off; Jake’s piece.

Fightingthe black dog  Bella/Jake. He says he can’t be her friend anymore. She fights her depression black dog; he fights with his own black dog, Sam.

The C word  Embry/Leah - married and happy.

Then have at thee, boy! Seth/Mike Newton. Seth drops in to visit Bella at work one night.

Guilty ascharged  Jake asks Bella to get a message to Paul in Forks Police station; he’s being held for murder.

Leaving ona jet plane. Jessica Simpson met Seth at Bella’s wedding. She has to leave to go to College. Her bags are packed.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Pushing boundaries

I must say when I thought that I might extend my own boundaries and try writing some slash (m/m) fiction, I had absolutely no idea that it would turn into my biggest story yet. I had messed with a threesome before, but not actually put the guys together. I’ve certainly read a few in the fanfic world where it was the same. The guys manage to somehow avoid touching each other, whilst they are in bed with the girl of their choice. Pretty agile really and most unrealistic. So I wrote a story where two guys loved each other first and then included a woman into their relationship. They are not gay, but I will call them hetero-flexible. A wonderful term that I learnt of recently.

I try to write sex in a real way. I am often amazed by the questions that readers ask me. Do they have no one else to ask? Is it because I am a faceless person that they somehow trust? I don’t know. One reader shared that her school district had cancelled sex-ed classes. She had observed that teen pregnancy rates were climbing and that the older boys were actively targeting younger inexperienced girls. I advised her to lobby her school board and to be properly prepared herself. What else could I do? I believe that what you don't know can hurt you; it can also leave you pregnant or diseased.

I know from reader comments, that I took a lot of readers down the slash path for the first time too. I may have never written slash before, but they had never read it. We trod it together. Personally I have no issue with homosexuality. I think love is love and you cannot choose who you fall in love with. I sooo wish we could choose, but then perhaps the queue for our favourite celebrities and sportspeople would get very silly indeed. But at least we might have been able to avoid some heartache from the past; the unrequited loves… the people you knew were bad for you, but you loved them none the less. Whether those mistakes are what make us the people we are now, is another whole discussion.

Growing up is hard. I remember how awkward it was to have a rapidly changing body at the exact time that everything else in your world was changing too; you were starting high school, or moving cities. You stressed about things that were so important to you at the time. Hindsight tells you that they really weren’t important at all. Your world didn’t end because you didn’t get those shoes or that person didn’t notice you.

I remember one school friend who was just completely and obviously gay, before we even really knew what it was. Kids grow up in a world where they are bombarded with images of beauty and sexuality. That was hard enough for us all as teens, with our pimply faces and gangly limbs, but it’s worse for kids now with the immediacy and odd separation of things like Facebook. It’s easier to be nasty online rather than to someone’s face. It’s easy to find out information from people’s Facebook profiles that you use to bully them with at school. Add in concerns about gender orientation and you have a powder keg that in some circumstances leads to bullying and massive increases in teen suicide rates.

I cried recently when I read an article in Rolling Stone about this.

One town's war on gay teens
I was absolutely horrified that children were abandoned by the very people in their society who should be supporting them; their community.

A reader commented to me of late, that after reading my little fic about my hetero-flexible boys, that they had changed their mind about gays. Now they had some understanding of how two guys could love each other.

If I do nothing else in my life, I will be proud of that.

I changed someone’s mind.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

PayPal backs down

March 13, 2012

I received this email last night and I was very pleased to see it. I have expressed previously, my grave concerns about banks and credit card companies holding themselves out as censors. I have also thought that this attack seemed to be on e-books only. Other works out in the printed domain do not attract the same attention.

A win for indie publishers and for us all!

Smashwords author/publisher update:  PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship

Great news.  Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It's been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction. 

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers.  You stood up and made your voice known.  Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.  

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference.  Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated.  We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out.  Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention. 

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal.  They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies. 

This is a big, bold move by PayPal.  It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction.  It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction. 

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors.  Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?   Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing.  In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit.  Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish.  Merit is decided by your readers.  Just as it should be.


Mark Coker

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Fanfic and ‘real’ writers.

There has been a lot of publicity recently about EL James scoring a three book, seven figure deal for ‘50 shades of grey’; a previously published work of fan fiction. I don’t think the fact that it used to be Twilight fanfic is a secret. I have certainly read a few articles about it recently. It was originally posted as an Edward/Bella story called ‘Master of the universe’.
I am glad for EL James although I suspect that she has unwittingly tapped into a BDSM for newbies style of thing. In any case, evidently the sale of grey ties has gone through the roof in New York; an unexpected by product of her story’s success.
I did an awful lot of reading about writing, if that makes sense, and publishing, before I decided that I needed to try this. In the publishing world of even the last ten years, if a work had been ‘pre-published’ it was the wordy equivalent of untouchable. Even a published short story that had been extended into a full novel could make the entirety of the new, longer, work defined as ‘pre-published’. I think one of the great things about e-books and e-readers is that there seems to be a resurgence of reading.
And hopefully, they will need more writers to fill those e-readers.
I really hope that publishers look to the fanfic world. I hope that EL James’ success will be a positive thing for other fanfic writers.
I have seen a few people discuss their fanfic writing in terms of a dirty secret. I saw one person say today that her friends would cope better if she was having an affair than writing fanfic. And when you add in the smutty, sexy style of writing, you have a whole new issue. My friends get the writing part, but not the non-income side of things. ‘You get how many hits a day and you don’t get paid?’ one keeps asking me.
I don’t have a significant other right now (that pretty much explains the smut writer -lmao), but I can understand how a fanfic writer’s significant other might be offended, or even jealous of their writing. If you are writing about a person who is hopeless in bed, will your lover think you are talking about them?
I know I shamelessly plunder my own history for the right reaction or insight into how a character might react or behave. I think all writers do it. I’ve often wondered how it would feel to be the person who inspired a particularly bitter or heartbreaking song. Imagine how the guy that dumped Adele feels right now?
Writers and songs reach people because their experiences resonate and good fanfic writers do that. They make their readers cry or sit at the edge of their seats, too. I have read some wonderful and brilliantly written fanfics. And quite a lot that were awful; but that’s the nature of the beast. Some, are so awful that they have become legends of their own. ‘My immortal’ for example.
I guess fanfiction works for people who want to write, but for whatever reason, cannot publish a whole completed novel. It allows you to experiment with writing; to try using visual prompts, gender swaps, to write in another style or to merge together two different genres into a whole (the crossover, as it is termed). Fanfiction allows you to post a chapter as frequently as you can produce them, a source of much frustration for readers, when that is once every four to six months, I will admit. I try to write the whole story before I post the first chapter. I have a morbid fear of having to rewrite the first chapter, because the story has veered off so wildly from where it first started, but I am a rare creature.
But writing fanfiction shouldn’t be a dirty secret; it’s the writing equivalent of a furnace. Do it properly and it will make you a stronger, better writer.
I see no difference between the writing process for fanfic or original fiction. Of course, for a fanfic you start with a premade set of characters where, in an original story, you make up your own. I write a lot of Twilight wolf fanfic, and the characters owned by Stephenie Meyer are so vaguely sketched out, that in some cases they have no surname and one or two distinguishing features… and that is it. But, by the time I have written a hundred thousand words around that character; they are more mine than hers. Unfortunately they still legally belong to her.
So I hope that EL James drags us all along with her. We’re ready, we’re writing and we’re stronger for it. We are tempered steel.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Facebook page

Facebook is forcing all 'pages', as opposed to members, to change to the new timeline thingie. Part of their new, dynamic look is a cover image. I had no idea what to do for my cover image, but then I had a brainstorm (often dangerous, I will admit).
I made a tag cloud of all my story titles. I was rather pleased with how it turned out, but once I had uploaded it, I realised that the major words were 'breaking', 'man' and 'Christmas'  - which isn't entirely what I was trying to go for. bwahaha

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Romance and kissing cousins

I wrote this story after being inspired by a photo. If you haven’t read it, I will warn that spoilers follow. 
It is a quick insight into a girl’s inability to resist the wrong guy. She knows he is wrong for her, she knows that he turns up and has sex with her when it suits him, and he will never acknowledge her as a lover or a partner. She knows this and she still can’t say ‘no’. She describes him as her ‘Achilles thong’; her intimate weakness, I suppose. By the end of the short story, she has said ‘no’, she has realised that the guy she is currently dating is a better, healthier choice and a nice guy. She tells him everything and he forgives her and still loves her.
It’s a circle of sorts. And I love circles in stories.
But one thing I had never anticipated was the reviews from Smashwords readers. I wrote that they were cousins. I didn’t say first cousins, but they are family. This was an issue for her in the story, because she can never quite get away from him. They keep meeting at family functions.
Wow! I had no idea that I had inadvertently stepped into the American version of incest. Which is oddly ironic, given the current battle that Smashwords and PayPal are having over the publication of incest.  I have no idea if my little story will cause my entire account to be deleted for breaching site rules on incest.
I am Australian. We have no such taboo about dating your cousin. You can even marry them if you want.
The Marriage Act prohibits people marrying:
an ancestor or descendant; or their brother or sister (whether whole blood or half-blood siblings). These restrictions also apply to adoptive relationships even if these have been annulled, cancelled, discharged or cease to be effective for any reason (for example, a subsequent adoption order being made).
This means, for example, that a person cannot marry their parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister. However, (depending of course on the gender of the party) a person may marry their aunt or uncle, niece or nephew or ‘first’ cousin.
[copied from the Australian government attorney general information website.]

As far as I understand, it is not an issue for most countries in the world. Maybe it is a Puritan hangover for the US? I certainly had no idea that marrying your first cousin is illegal in more American States, than not. I guess if Americans are confused about it, too, then my little story might be safe. Oddly, it has the most downloads too. Way more than any of my other stories so far.
Most reviewers also seem to miss the point, that by the end, she has made the correct choice. I can only assume that they didn’t read to the end. I also keep getting told that it isn’t a romance. In Smashwords, I have to choose existing tags (at least, I think so - still new at this ‘n all) I looked up romance. It says it is a noun for a novel of a love affair. It’s certainly not Mills & Boon style romance, but it finishes on what I would categorise as happy for now.
Yeah… *picture me confused*.